Tragedy In Boston: What The Hell Was Epicurious Thinking?

After every national tragedy, you can be sure that some clueless brand will try to exploit it.

In today’s episode of “What the hell were they thinking,” the food website Epicurious sent out the following tweets to its 385,000 followers:

Epicurious Tweets

Get your legs blown off by a terrorist? Try these scones! Lose a cherished friend? Maybe this bowl of breakfast energy can help!

Okay, those tweets are beyond absurd. So Epicurious deleted them and tweeted this alleged mea culpa:

Epicurious Apology

First, let’s be clear: their earlier tweets didn’t “seem” offensive. They were offensive. The word “seem” shifts the burden of blame onto their readers, who the brand seems to think were overly sensitive. It stops short of fully acknowledging the obliviousness of their tweets.

Second, a repeatedly tweeted template “apology” isn’t genuine. It’s a form letter. The steady stream of identical tweets does nothing to engage with the audience and express human remorse.

As a result, Epicurious diminished its brand with ill-advised tweets, followed by an “apology” that only made matters worse.

What should Epicurious do now?

  1. 1. They can start by engaging with readers individually—and offering human responses instead of form ones.
  2. 2. They can learn from KitchenAid’s crisis example from late last year, when that company’s brand manager personally jumped in, stated that the person responsible for the tweets wouldn’t be allowed to represent their brand anymore, and offered on-the-record interviews.
  3. 3. They should pledge that they will provide everyone on the staff with social media training; and, if they don’t already have a social media policy, that they will create one immediately.
  4. 4. Epicurious should pledge a donation to victims of the Boston tragedy in an effort to make something good come out of this experience.

I’m not opposed, as a rule, to brands promoting themselves after a tragedy. For example, Epicurious could have sent one tweet acknowledging the tragedy in Boston, and then a separate one featuring a recipe. But by trying to force a news hook into their food recipes, Epicurious committed a rookie mistake that will rightly tarnish its reputation.

Brad Phillips is the author of The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview.

h/t: @EmpoweredElaine